House rules

photo 5Before I started a blog, I read a lot of other blogs about loss. I noticed that many of them had a “shelf-life”, so to speak. The writer eventually must have felt that expressing their grief in a blog, had run its course. I took it to mean that they had moved on to processing their grief differently, that they were healing, and were finally able to let grief move into the background…no longer hogging center stage. Some people probably also just got sick and tired of writing about grief! I’ve been starting to feel like a broken record, myself.

In fact, just this morning, armed with an extremely ambitious to-do list, I thought, “Hey! I might be done writing about grief”. Not that I am done grieving, but I am starting to feel that perhaps writing about it isn’t helping me move forward any more. And really, I feel like I keep saying the same damn thing, just in a slightly different way. See? Didn’t I already say that?

But you can’t push the process. This I have learned. Turns out, I got ahead of myself. Today’s to-do list was over-zealous, and I definitely I over-did it. Because by evening, I was so exhausted, I could barely make dinner, and I found myself sitting on the shower floor, bawling, wishing my friend Martha still lived in the same town so she could bring me some wine.

Any interest in knowing what I was crying about? I was crying because I realized that in this house, we call a spade a spade. Dead is dead. There’s no sugar-coating it, and the finality of it can bring you to your knees.

People might assume that I find comfort in thinking my husband is looking down on me from heaven. That he is in a good place. Or they might think that it is comforting to imagine hearing his voice encouraging me, as I muddle through every day…that there is “comfort” and closure in the memories that I have. The photos, our garden, the things we built, and did together.

In my experience, there are some days when – I’m sorry to tell you – there is simply no comfort to be found in the reality of death…the physical absence, the “lack of” the person you loved, it just hurts like a mofo. If you know what I mean. Those are the brutal days, when you find yourself crumpled on the shower tiles, thinking crazy thoughts, seeking desperate measures to relieve the pain of your loss. You just want the harsh reality to go POOF! Like it was a sick joke, a slight of hand, those awful cards your husband was dealt.

Those are the moments when you tell yourself, “don’t lose faith, don’t lose hope”, but then immediately find yourself asking, what the hell am I hoping for? A miracle? He’s dead!! Gone. Never coming back. You’ll never hear his wonderful laugh, or touch the nape of his neck again. It’s not a gray area, people. I can pretend that I know what he’d be saying right now, but he probably would have surprised me with his opinion. That’s what I loved about him. That’s what I miss. He was my complement, not my twin. So in my reality, there is rarely a comforting voice from up above – just the silence of his absence. The loss of his living, breathing body, his funny perspective, his unique grace in this world. The spice in my life. A lonely shower of loss it makes…

I guess in those dark moments, you are hoping for healing. You are hoping that the lightning bolts of pain will hit less frequently, with less accuracy, that they won’t cut so deep, that one day, the rawness of grief will be a soft memory in the past.

But there’s the rub. You don’t want it to disappear altogether, either. Your connection to that person is intrinsically woven into your grief. Your grief, the complicated tangle that it is, exists because someone you loved deeply, died. Though I know my relationship with it will change over time, it is the thread – the fascia that connects muscles to bones. This loss, this grief, this heart-searing connection to his life and his death, will be with me forever. Another spade, we can call a spade.

And, apparently, I’m not quite done writing about it yet.

12 thoughts on “House rules

  1. I was sitting down to write but decided to check my favorite blogs first – and you’ve put into words exactly what I was thinking. Yes, yes, yes. So true.

    • Thanks for continuing to support my ramblings! It does help knowing that there are some things about the grief process that are shared. Hope you are well…healing, making it through. I love your writing, and your ability to write about things broader than grief.

      • Aw… thanks. I think we all help each other, if for nothing else just to know there are others of us out there going through the same things.

  2. Yes, yes and yes, me too. I’ve been thinking of my own shelf life and you have put it into words beautifully. All the myriad of reasons as to why one might stop or continue, and stop and start again. So complex. Sometimes I am embarrassed to write as I think I am a bit morbidly obsessed by death. I look around and think, is any one else thinking about it as much? But then I realize that all the great spiritual disciplines acknowledge that awareness of death can actually serve to bring you into life more fully. And for now that’s the reasoning I’m going with.
    Keep on a writing. I shall keep on a reading. Peace.

  3. I hadn’t written for a while because I felt like I was repeating myself. And I figured those who read my blog were tired of reading it. But guess what? Grief is repetitive. And so I too wrote a few more repetitive words about it today. I just wish I had something else to write about. I don’t. So I stopped. I stopped before I was done.

  4. The more I talk to people the more fortunate I realize I am that I am so in touch with Philip. Any time I talk to him, he answers. He sends me signs daily, which I take as his encouraging me. And sometimes, they’re pretty amazing. But does that mean I’m not a mess? No. I’m still so devastated, and much as I want my down-time and alone-time, when I have it is when I’m at my worst. I miss his physical-ness. It’s a craving just to give him a hug, to hear his voice somewhere other than in my head. You said it so well, as usual.

    You also made me think of a post I wrote about my “bitter heart,” and how it might be bitter, but it’s mine. It’s not the first time I realized my grief and my love for my son go hand-in-hand. If you want to read it, it’s here:

    Philip’s death made our relationship into sacred space. I believe that’s true for all of us. But just because it’s sacred doesn’t mean it’s not words-fail-me painful.

  5. Denise, thank you for your thoughtful and heartfelt reply. The connection we have with someone after they die is so personal. I am glad that your connection with your son is so strong. I have struggled a lot with the finality of death, well, because it just plain sucks to lose someone you love, but also because I have always had more of an atheistic belief…my husband and dad did, too. But spirituality, and how we find connection after someone has died is also very personal, and can change. I hope I will find more quiet moments to “be” with that connection, where grief isn’t running the emotional show, so to speak. I am glad that you reminded me of the sacredness of the connection. Sometimes grief takes over everything, even our ability to appreciate the beauty of the connection we still have. Thank you for sharing your post about your bitter heart. It is so rich, I will need to read it again.

  6. This is wonderful. If you haven’t read it, Emily Rapp’s “Still Point of the Turning World” offers a lot of interesting insights and ideas on grief (it’s about the loss of her son, Ronan.) It helped me to unravel some things within myself I’d been sort of carrying for a long time, so I thought I’d share. Keep going and keep writing as long as you feel like it. Even if it might sound the same, you’re turning over new stones in yourself and in others.

  7. Well said, and I am so happy I came across it today. Yesterday was a rough day for me and I felt so out of touch with my emotions. I did not realize we both lost our husbands within months of each other from the same disease. I thought you were the one with the diagnosis. If I would have known or maybe paid better attention I would have reached out to you sooner. I could have used a friend that understood what I was going through exactly and vice versa. I guess we both do now.

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